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Mediacom… friend or foe? (by Peter Children)

Op-ed by Peter Children –

I have been a “bundle buyer” with Mediacom since they first offered it to their customer base. This means, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, that I have subscribed to Phone, Cable and Internet. I have had this service for 15 years and to the best of my knowledge the pricing has been erratic at best. Mediacom blames this on a very changing landscape which could be a factor but never to the extent of $5.00 one way or another…..however Mediacom far exceeds that model.

Like many other of you, I signed a two year contract beginning about a year ago. At that time my monthly charge was $119.95 excluding whatever fees and taxes were applicable above that. Taxes are taxes fees are something else. How many of you know there are “fees” that are directed to a fund from which payments are extracted to collect from people who do not pay? How about that? The check I wrote today was for $184.56, less $14.63 which means my monthly fee to Mediacom has jumped $49.98….and I have a “locked in rate” excluding of course their right to raise my bill at will or whim. I then ask why my bill has risen to such heights considering my two years contract started much lower. At that point I was reminded I was still receiving discounts based on their original base rate.

Mediacom has informed me that all records before 2011 are not available…..how nice, if we could do that with our personal files our life would suddenly be far less complicated.

So let’s recap this bad dream; we are subject to a hefty penalty if we divorce ourselves from this monopolistic cable company….why? Because we are under contract; a contract that is horribly one sided. Our monthly charges are not “lock in” to anything other than quicksand. I was informed by a friendly young girl who was explaining the mathematical maneuverings of my ever changing monthly statements that while my monthly charges might be skyrocketing, I was still receiving promotional billings. Go figure. The answer was chilling….she went on to inform me that the “regular” rates are a couple bucks over $200.00. So the fact that my bill has increased $50.00 dollars a month ($600.00 a year) I should be grateful that I am still a short distance from the oven’s door.

Awhile back Mediacom virtually shut down for close to three weeks while, I was told, they changed servers. No one offered me compensation for that until I persisted, then I received a small credit….but my point is it was not offered without demand. The people who carry the load for these champions of contract construction, are first rate. The guys who came to my house to hook things up, the phone people who help with your questions are first rate…..but these are not the people who decide what you are going to pay each month. Do not confuse them with the real suits. These suits have me on tape verbally agreeing to all the terms and conditions since the Second World War ended in 1945. I says this to discourage any of you from thinking of going to court. You will not win.

I am a subscriber who has been steadfast for 15 years….paid my bills. Like you I often wonder how they can afford to offer new subscribers a $99.00 a month introductory offers that allegedly hold their place for a year….yet for people like ourselves, they have reserved a special place in bundle hell.

So what’s the answer? Word has it the the Clear Lake phone company is laying cable that will reach Mason City soon. I imagine this will offer high speed Internet; I am excited about that. Charter is a cable company that has yet to enter Iowa…invitations should be offered. But the most practical solution would be for this city to operate their own cable company. Research on google has shown many cities have done that. The results were profitable and at the same time brought appreciable lower rates.

Mediacom operates under a franchise offered by this city…..one long “hard look” needs to take place when the current agreement expires. This time we need a lawyer of our own present and a Mayor who is sober minded enough to think of others and not just himself. We need a council who actually care about those who live and work here…..I know that’s a stretch but it could happen if enough vote in the coming elections.

Peter J. Children

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Finally found the current franchise agreement (I think).

http://citychannel4.com/franchise/ICFRANCHISEFINAL.pdf

Actually, MediaCom doesn’t negotiate with communities anymore, I believe it negotiates with the state. This is why Lee (Senator’s Son) Grassley doesn’t come around anymore. Mediacom’s franchise does not have a non-compete in it, so communities like Clear Lake, Algona, Osage, etc who have more than one option also have lower prices. For a city like Mason City, Hampton or Ackley that have also passed communications referrendum have just faced a high start up cost, but Osage has over 50% participation. They’d rather send their cable/phone/internet payments to city hall than to a far away city. It makes you really think “what would happen” if the city got into the communications business?

Thank you Peter. A well researched, well written eye opener.

So my questions…..

Competition typically drives the cost of the service or product down and delivers the best of the best to consumers. Why does any provider, like Mediacom have exclusive rights to anything? Why is the city involved in the first place? Why no free market in this arena? Seems like a license to steal.

Tomorrow I will be on the phone with the attorney general’s office in Des Moines. I want a clear understanding of just what a “locked in rate” really means. Right now if I were you I would call my council person and complain….not that they would listen of course. Ask the people who live near the Mercy wre it got them.

I think the first thing you need to do is find your contract you signed for that rate. thats why they say they dont have any information before 2011. they know many people dont have the contract for proof. I remember answering questions on the phone for approval once. They had questions that had to be read off word for word. As i answered I paraphrased and answered yes with my own statement. She would not accept my answer. she kept re asking me the same question untill I said I agreed with tv commercial and then hung up on her. the repairman (standing next to me) didnt like that and had to call her back again. Now that we know the dangers, I guess we need to have the contract in writing to read, and not answer over the phone (no proof). and not just say yes to their broad questions.

There is no paper contract, you verbally agree over the phone and on tape. I know, I know…….but there are strong indications of impropriety here. It is embedded in their verbiage that is used in their advertising.

I’m interested to see just what you find out from the AG.

Normally these companies like Mediacom run roughshod over their subscribers because they feel strongly that their position of impunity is secure. It is exactlly through discussions such as this that things are reveled. The committee that was appointed by this city to negotiated this agreement needs to take part in this open form, they need to explain to the rest of us just how this works.

Now someone made a loose reference to “Lee Grassly”, I didn’t know until just now there was a person named Lee Grassly. The fact that he is referred to as our esteemed Senator’s son and he has his hands in this quagmire makes it all the more believable. Together we have a voice, alone we’ re just pissing in the wind.

In searching on the City’s site I am unable to find a copy of the franchise agreement between the City & Mediacom, who is on the Cable Television Commission, but that it supposedly meets quarterly.
Does anyone know where to find this stuff or does it take a call to the City?

The elected officials won’t listen to the people. A few years ago we went to the polls and voted for what most of us thought was the go ahead for the city to provide cable service. The facts are many people are unhappy with our current provider and especially their lack of customer service when there is a problem. Our city should provide this service it would be cheaper and better service.

There was a vote to do a feasibility study. They had to vote to spend that kind of money.

I am impressed with Katie’s internet speed. I just checked out the speed on my computer and my connection using SpeedCheck.com. My download speed is.60 ups and my upload speed is .32. I use Windstream and feel I pay a lot for little. Now, I know I am.

When Mediacom says they are offering a “locked rate for two years, they should be held accountable. Maybe it’s time for the attorney general to pull up a chair.

Charter charges $29 a month for super fast internet which is all you need now. Internet killed the Television star…

I pay $165.00/month for CLTEL for phone, cable with HBO and PVR, and Internet bumped up to 10 mbps. No High Def. I believe the DVR was $20/month and the Internet speed bump was also $10-$20/month. My download speed is 10.7 and my upload speed is 1.1. I know Mediacom’s speeds are much faster, but I don’t need that at home. CL Tel’s service is unmatched. There is a lot of information and help on their web site, they will help talk you through problems on the phone if you like, and they come to your home as soon as they possibly can. I can tell you that they are a family-owned business and they really care a LOT about their employees. They treat them like family members. Clear Lake is so fortunate to have a family like this running a major business that gives so much back to the community.

Peter makes a good point. Charter offers the entire package of tv, Internet and even phone for less than$30 a month. Can Nit find out how much Mason City gets in fees, how many subscribers and when the contract is up.
the rates are crazy high!

Hacker do you really think this current administration really cares if the rates are too high? He’ll if truth be known they side with Mediacom just as they did with Mercy.

I have no choice as I live in an apt. If I don’t subscribe to Mediacom — I cannot have any TV. I have expanded basic and slow internet and my internet bill is $116 per month. I am on social security and that is a lot of money. They need some competition. They are robbing us with their monopoly.

new set of “rabbit ears” are about $100 or less. Plus extra box. A smart phone will give you internet included with the phone. I have a us cellular portable hot spot for $25 per month for my internet now. (formerly mediacom). If I go over my time its another $10 per month. No biggie. much easier for me as I travel and do not have a smart phone.

I use rabbit ear antenna! Who needs cable, 20 channels for free

Me too. and I love the old retro shows. much better for kids to watch too.

Pete is right on.

My daughter lives in Cedar Falls. The city of Cedar Falls provides ALL utilities. WATER, SEWER, GARBAGE PICKUP, GAS&ELECTRICITY, CABLE TV, AND INTERNET. Her monthly budget plan is $233.00/month.

There are no charges for service!

Those same services in Mason City (for me) are Mediacom Internet $70.00/month, (yes I am turning if off and going elsewhere) Direct TV $110.00/month (only use about 6 channels) Water&Sewer&Garbage $55.00/month, Gas&Electricity budget plan $155.00/month. Total monthly outlay= $390.00/month.

Many years ago a councilman put on the agenda and proposed the city to put together a program to take over these services. The Chamber and the lobbyists came after him big time. The council would not even discuss it!

This idiot Mayor and our non thinking City Council would rather shut down the Human Rights Department saving about a penny per thousand in taxation rather then use some business acumen to improve life in the city.

FYI: Those statues don’t improve life in the city either!

This whole mess is a head shaker.

Correction: the city actually passed a referendum in Nov of 2005 to create a municipal communications company. (See also: http://globegazette.com/news/opinion/pro-con-mason-city-communications-utility/article_786a2d47-9d22-5675-98bc-e2ecfb370774.html) At the time everyone wanted better cable. That still stands today; however the floods of 2008 pretty much put it on the back burner permanently. When the opportunity to apply for Google Fiber arose, it was even further buried. That being said, Mason City has the challenge of not having an electric and or gas utility, which is a MAJOR advantage for the cities who have done a municipal communications utility (Cedar Falls and Osage are the two closest I can think of, both of which have been very successful).

Peter-I dumped Mediacom five years ago and have been happy with Direct TV for the most part. I just got tired of rate increases every six months and paying extra for channels I wanted to watch. As far as I am concerned if they raised their rates the violated your contract and you can leave them. What are they going to do? They can’t touch your Social Security and they know it.

I also had Mediacom bundle. My internet was off more than it was on so I dropped the internet and went to century link, which isn’t quite as fast but much more reliable. My monthly bill for mediacom for just cable for years was 36.00, 2 months ago I received a bill for over 100.00 so I dropped them and went to direct tv. I was told all I owed was 33.00 for the few days into the month I had them so I paid the bill, last week I received a bill from them for almost 200.00. My mother had Mediacom and she moved so she had her account moved to her new place, for 3 months she was receiving 2 separate bills for 2 accounts, her old one and a new one in the persons name that used to live in her new apartment totaling over 400.00 a month. I do think we need some competition here in town.

If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

Hillari

You missed the point; I know I can leave. The purpose of the story was to see just how many others have experienced silimlar situations. I I stated I think the employees are first rate, but whoever decides the billing cycle needs to re-think things. This is what happens when there is only one provider.

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